In Lebanon there is one gunshot a year that isn’t part of a scene of routine violence: The opening sound of the Beirut International Marathon. In a moving talk, marathon founder May El-Khalil explains why she believed a 26.2-mile running event could bring together a country divided for decades by politics and religion, even if for one day a year.
Making peace is a marathon. Making life is a marathon. Making beauty is a marathon. But they’re worth every agonizing step.
@petesouza: President Obama holds a 12th man flag with the Super Bowl Champs Seattle Seahawks
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, accompanied by quarterback Russell Wilson, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin
ABC News: Obama Salutes Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks
President Barack Obama congratulated the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday, saluting their victories on the field and their contributions to their community. Noting that some football analysts didn’t see Seattle as a top-tier team, Obama said he especially appreciated the team overcoming long odds.
“As a guy who was elected president named Barack Obama, I root for the underdog,” the president joked. The Seahawks clinched their first Super Bowl victory in the history of the franchise in February by beating the Denver Broncos 43-8.
President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. The White House moved Wednesday to address the growing furor over allegations of misconduct at the Department of Veterans Affairs, summoning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to an Oval Office meeting, hours before the House was scheduled to vote on a bill that would grant the secretary more authority to fire or demote senior executives.
Just three months ago, Senate was poised to pass a big bill expanding VA funding. It was blocked by a GOP filibuster: reuters.com/article/2014/0…
NPR: Obama: People ‘Will Be Held Accountable’ For Veterans Affairs Problems
Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified Veterans Affairs records “will be held accountable,” President Obama said Wednesday. The president condemned the reported widespread problems at the VA, defending Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Obama spoke after he and Shinseki met in the Oval Office Wednesday morning with White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, who since last week has been detailed to work with the VA. Neither of those men attended the president’s news conference. Speaking about reports of long wait times — and efforts to cover up the delays — Obama said that if they’re proven true, the behavior is “dishonorable” and “disgraceful.” “I will not stand for it,” Obama said. “None of us should.”
The president said that Nabors is heading to Phoenix today to look into reports that a facility there had produced misleading statistics about veteran care. Obama mentioned accountability several times in his prepared remarks; he also noted that some employees had already been put on administrative leave. He said that his administration will continue “bringing the VA into the 21st century – which is not an easy task.” Obama also defended Shinseki, saying, “No one cares more about our veterans.” But Obama added that he told Shinseki today that he expects accountability and improvement in the full report on the VA’s problems.
On This Day: President Obama greets graduating Joplin High School seniors before their commencement ceremony at Missouri Southern State University’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:45: President Obama makes a statement in the briefing room after a meeting with Sec. Eric Shinseki
11:35: The President participates in an ambassador credentialing ceremony
12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:10: The President honors the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, East Room
4:10: The President delivers remarks on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation, Department of Interior
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more Americans don't have to worry about lifetime caps. http://t.co/EfXDgTKfMB
Washington Post: Obama: ‘In Five Years It Will No Longer Be Called Obamacare.’
Just about everyone calls the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” — even the White House. But is President Obama returning to his old stance that the health-care law should not have his name attached to it?
At a fundraiser in Potomac, Md., Monday night, Obama backed off the term that his administration shunned, and then embraced.
“First of all, in five years it will no longer be called Obamacare, because when something is working, they’re definitely not going to — there will be a whole renaming process similar to National. (Laughter.) I don’t know if it will be “Reagancare,” but it will definitely be — it will be something different,” Obama told the crowd.
(For those of you outside the Washington area, Obama was referring to Washington National Airport, which was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998).
NYT: Memo Approving Targeted Killing Of U.S. Citizen To Be Released
Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist. The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., made the call to release the secret memo — and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials. The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appeals court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public. The memo was written by David J. Barron, a Harvard Law professor and former acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who is Mr. Obama’s choice to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.
As a Justice Department lawyer, Mr. Barron wrote two memos concluding that it would be lawful to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen living in Yemen, based on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that he was a senior operational terrorist plotting attacks against the United States and that his capture was not feasible. The lawsuit focused on the second and longer of those memos. Mr. Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in September 2011. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, had promised to slow down Mr. Barron’s confirmation if the administration did not allow senators to view all of Mr. Barron’s memos or release redacted versions to the public. Libertarian-leaning senators in both parties had expressed reservations about the nomination, and some conservatives also argued that he was too liberal on other issues. A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator would still take the Senate floor on Wednesday for a filibuster-style protest of Mr. Barron’s nomination. Last year, Mr. Paul used the nomination of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency to stage a nearly 13-hour filibuster.
Philly.com: U.S. Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Pa.
A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages, a landmark ruling that appeared to clear the way for the Commonwealth to become the latest state to legalize gay marriage. The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III marked the first and most significant to date in a series of court challenges to the state’s 1996 ban. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote in the 39-page opinion. “By virtue of this, ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”
“What a great day!” said Mark Aronchick, one of the plantiffs lawyers in the case. “The court, in a bell-ringing opinion, has explained in crystal clear language why the promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the commonwealth to take whatever steps are necessary to allow marriages to proceed and the celebrations to begin immediately.” In Philadelphia, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci’s office immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Guy Sabelli, the city’s marriage license supervisor, said 12 female couples and 6 male couples had obtained licenses by the time the office closed at 5:30 p.m. The office reopens at 8 a.m. Wednesday with extended hours until 7 p.m.
I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal. I hadn’t heard about it other than in this brief passage tucked away in a Politico article about the House GOP agriculture bill. But it takes a small program intended provide meals to children in the school lunch program during the summer months and says it can now only be used to benefit kids in “rural areas”.
In other words, “urban” kids are now out of luck.
Here’s the passage in question ..
And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.
ThinkProgress: President Obama Is Set To Create His Largest National Monument So Far
On Wednesday, President Obama will create his second national monument of the year, designating the Organ Mountains in New Mexico a protected area. The Organ Mountains, located at the southern end of New Mexico, will be the 11th and largest national monument of Obama’s presidency. The White House says that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will create $7.4 million in new annual economic activity in the region, a finding that first appeared in a 2013 report.
That report also found the monument would double the number of outdoor recreation and tourism jobs in the region and contribute $560,000 in state and local tax revenue. The monument encompasses a total of 496,000 acres, land which contains Native American petroglyphs in its canyons and is one of the most botanically diverse mountain ranges in New Mexico, home to about 870 vascular (i.e. plants with roots, stems, and leaves) plant species and a recorded 210 species of birds.
Brentin Mock: EPA Takes On Three Villains At Once: Pollution, Climate Change, And Racism
You may have read something recently about the air being racist, which is of course ridiculous. It is true that if you are white in America you will tend to breathe air of a more premium quality. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans. This is not news to us. Our abnormally high asthma and cancer rates testify to this. President Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief, Lisa Jackson, promoted environmental justice to top priority status in the agency’s overall mission in 2009. The resulting strategy, which the EPA began rolling out in March, is called Plan EJ 2014, and its primary goal is to end the culture of entitlement among polluters that dump toxic byproducts into the air, soil, and water of marginalized communities. Why is this a big deal?
We can't get to the reckoning about America's racialized political economy when one of the parties suppresses vote/denies health insurance.
Because if you believe that the health and lives of people of color are no less precious than white people’s, this plan helps bring environmental laws in harmony with those values. If you think that clean air is Don Sterling (I like black people. I feed them with oxygen and give them wind. I just don’t want them breathing me.), then you want to know who the Adam Silver is who can commission a smack down. Because civil rights protections in America have been taking a beating lately. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we now have weakened voting rights protections, weakened affirmative action policies, and we were this close to losing valuable housing discrimination protections (which would have had negative implications for environmentalists).
While civil rights have been getting pushed backwards, environmental justice is been slowly rolling along progressively. That’s no small feat, especially for an agenda that was attacked almost immediately upon Obama claiming the White House in 2009.
ABC News: Biden: Punish Russia If It Meddles In Ukraine
Russia must be punished if it seeks to derail Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. Speaking during a tour of Eastern European nations, Biden urged European allies to use their influence and “promote a stable and positive environment” so Ukrainians can vote unhindered on Sunday. “If Russia undermines these elections … we must remain resolute and impose greater costs to Russia and (be) equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance,” Biden said after talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu. The U.S. and the EU have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and have threatened to target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Russia tries to grab more land from Ukraine.
"Where the rule of law is strong...this is where companies around the world invest." -VP in #Romania on anti-corruption efforts
Biden urged Romania to develop its natural gas resources, which analysts say could be exported it to other countries in the region, including neighboring Moldova, which is 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Romania imports about one-fifth of its natural gas from Russia and has its own supplies in the northwest Transylvania region. “We need to ensure that Russia can no longer use its energy resources as a weapon against anyone in the region,” Biden said. “The development of a secure, diverse and inter-connected energy market is the next great step for our European colleagues.”
ThinkProgress: Chipotle Asks Customers To Keep Guns Away From Its Stores
On Monday, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. formally requested that customers refrain from bringing guns into its restaurants. The announcement came after gun rights advocates entered a Texas restaurant with “military-style assault rifles.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America distributed a petition calling for firearms bans in stores like Chipotle after “open-carry gun activists” entered a Chipotle in Dallas.
According to Chipotle, “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.” It remains unclear whether or not the chain is implementing a complete ban on all firearms, but the official statement also claims that the company has previously adhered to local gun rights laws.
A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that exchange enrollment meets or exceeds expectations in 22 states (44%), even after accounting for any attrition due to nonpayment of premiums. Assuming 15 percent of enrollees do not take the final enrollment step and pay their premiums, over 6.8 million people who enrolled through April 19 will have coverage effective as of May 1.
“The large uptick in enrollment in March and early April brought many states over the finish line in terms of projected enrollment for 2014,” said Caroline Pearson, Vice President at Avalere. “Even after accounting for potential non-payment, enrollment exceeds 100 percent of projections in nearly half of states.”
President Obama has gotten much attention from a single extended response he gave to a question about his foreign policy from Ed Henry of Fox News in a press conference in Manila. The apparently strongly felt need, on the part of some of the president’s hardline critics, to strike back at his remarks and to try to discredit them indicates that he spoke some embarrassing truths. Garden-variety disagreement with the substance of the president’s policies and what he has said to support them would never have stimulated this kind of response. The president made several perceptive observations about the less productive aspects of current discourse in Washington about Ukraine, Syria, and other difficult issues, but if there was a single “ouch” line that made the critics most uncomfortable it may have been Mr. Obama’s comment that “for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again.”
213,881 GOP turnout in contested race McConnell-Bevin. 309,207 Dem turnout in virtual uncontested race Alison Grimes. What's the narrative?
It must be painful for Mr. Obama’s opponents to be reminded how right he was about this issue while so many others—Democrats as well as Republicans—were wrong. If subsequent commentary by the critics were to be believed, the main takeaway from the president’s remarks was that he was accusing his political opponents of being warmongers. But the president explicitly acknowledged, in referring to debates over Syria and Ukraine, that the opponents he has in mind have disavowed wanting to send U.S. troops into such conflicts. Mr. Obama’s main point was instead that after making such disavowals, the critics either (1) fail to spell out what other action they have in mind, beyond what the administration already is doing; or (2) to the extent they do mention an alternative, fail to assess carefully the likely consequences both good and bad, and instead just make unsupported assertions that acting more boldly or aggressively will somehow help to solve the problem at hand.
WPRI: 91% In RI Pay First Premiums For Obamacare Plans
The vast majority of individuals who signed up for private insurance plans through Rhode Island’s new Obamacare marketplace finished the process by paying their first premiums, the agency’s leader confirmed Friday. Christine Ferguson, executive director of HealthSource RI, said 91% of the 27,968 individuals who signed up for private plans during the open enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31 paid their first premiums by the April 23 deadline. Analysts have pointed to that percentage as a key test of whether the enrollment figures were as strong as they looked. A total of 25,879 individuals had signed up for a private plan through HealthSource RI and paid their first premiums as of April 30, the agency said. In addition, more than 70,000 people have now used the marketplace to sign up for Medicaid, the government insurance plan for low-income Americans, far more than were expected to do so.
Ferguson also confirmed that HealthSource RI is “in very serious discussions” with executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc. to have United start selling plans for individuals on the Rhode Island marketplace this fall. “I will say that there’s a very good chance that United will,” she said. Executives at United, the nation’s largest health insurer, have signaled in recent weeks that they plan to start selling Obamacare plans in more states during the next open enrollment period this fall. While United is already selling plans to small businesses through HealthSource RI, the marketplace currently has only Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Neighborhood Health Plan offering individual plans.
Amy Lynn Smith: Obamacare Success Stories Keep Coming, With A Rosy Forecast For 2015
So much good news, it’s hard to know where to begin. In Michigan, 272,539 people signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, in addition to thousands more who have enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion program that launched April 1. Numbers don’t lie, but even more compelling are the stories of people like Karen Marshall of Oak Park, Mich. Until about four years ago, she’d always had health insurance through work. But when she lost her job, she couldn’t get even the most expensive private insurance because the insurance company claimed she had a pre-existing condition.
Marshall has always considered herself fortunate to be healthy, but she never felt luckier than she did after getting health insurance that kicked in on January 1, 2014. On a trip the week before, she slipped on the ice and fell, breaking her wrist in three places. She saw an orthopedic surgeon on January 3 and had surgery the following week. Everything was covered by her insurance, leaving her only having to pay her deductible and her $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum for the year. She’s now had two surgeries, one hospitalization, and has physical therapy and follow-up visits ahead.
Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the St. Pete Times Forum, May 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida
President Obama and the Pittsburgh Steelers pack care packages for distribution by the USO during an event on the South Lawn of the White House May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Oval Office on May 21, 2009. The President nominated Judge Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (left) and Senior Advisor David Axelrod review President Obama’s address on national security outside the Oval Office on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama delivers an address on national security at the National Archives May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama prepares to take a group photo with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the East Room of the White House, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in the Oval Office Thursday, May 21, 2009. This was the President’s first meeting with an African Head of State. A bust of Martin Luther King is at far left (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama chats with journalists in a dining room located in the in the White House Navy Mess, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama’s personal secretary, Katie Johnson, tries on a Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet outside the Oval Office, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is reflected in a mirror during a impromptu drop-by visit with speechwriters in David Axelrod’s office in the West Wing of the White House on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama surprises members of the Office of the Staff Secretary in the West Wing of the White House during an impromptu drop-by visit on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shares a laugh with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., right, and others during a meeting in the Oval Office, May 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks Air Force One upon his arrival at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
@PeteSouza: ‘POTUS receives update this am on Oklahoma tornado aftermath from Sec Napolitano et al’ May 21, 2013